It’s a packed Saturday of college hoops action with every major conference putting some good quality action on the floor. The highlight of the day is West Virginia trying to cap off an insane week by knocking off #1 Kansas and the de facto new #1, Oklahoma, in the same week – and wreaking absolute havoc on the polls. But by no means is this the ONLY good game today.
The day starts off well with an interesting Big East battle as Villanova travels to surging Georgetown. The Hoyas fell off the radar after a disappointing early non-conference performance which included a blowout home loss to Monmouth (that looks less-bad all the time… sorry about last night’s loser from me. I was right about AJ English being a beast; he dropped 46 on just 25 shots. I was wrong about Iona having an inkling to defend. Monmouth scored 110 points on the road at Iona, the preseason conference favorite, and is keeping their dream season firmly in place). However, Georgetown has been playing pretty good hoops lately. This could be an interesting game.
Other highlights include Miami at Clemson, Notre Dame at Duke, Xavier at Marquette and Seton Hall at Providence in another pair of great Big East action, and some decent SEC action to round out the night. Most of the best action is early, perhaps avoiding NFL playoffs on television – so strap in for a great sports day.
Today’s Free Pick:
Arkansas Razorbacks at LSU Tigers -7.5 (ESPN 8:30 EST)
Their record isn’t great, but Arkansas is a few possessions away from being a reasonably regarded team and having a reasonable bubble profile. They enter tonight at 9-7 and with three losses by a single possession: @ Wake Forest, Stanford and Mercer. They lost competitively at Georgia Tech and by four to a good Dayton team. Meanwhile, they are 3-1 in the SEC, winners of nine of ten of their last home games including wins over Vanderbilt, Evansville and North Florida. This is an improving squad and one that will be competitive in the SEC the rest of the year. Anthlon Bell is the reigning conference player of the week after dropping 25 in consecutive games and will be looking to make it three tonight in LSU, a team not noted this season for great team defense.
Of course, Arkansas will have to do something with likely first team All American and obvious first pick in the draft, Ben Simmons. The freshman phenom has been more than advertised, averaging a boggling 20.3 points on 57.3% shooting and 5.3 assists with a 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio; pretty impressive for a 6’11’’ kid handling the ball with as much attention as he garners. Add in his 12.6 boards, nearly 2 steals and more than a block a night, and he is easily the most dazzling multi-faceted player in the country. However, despite the amazing personal performance, his team is only 10-6, which keeps him third on my (hypothetical) Naismith ballot, behind Buddy Love and Kris Dunn, whose teams are in the Top Ten.
Simmons is amazing. Noted. But his teammates have been a little less consistent. They’ve been better lately, during LSU’s 3-1 SEC start. Just as all non-conference records aren’t equal, neither are conference records. LSU’s includes a blowout win over Kentucky and wins over Vandy on the road and a 90-81 home win over Ole Miss. Their lone loss at is Florida last weekend.
LSU is the slightly better team, but the line is a little wide tonight. Arkansas has played very well of late and has been very competitive in all but two of their losses. Moses Kingsley is one of the better interior defenders in the SEC and could give Simmons some quality looks tonight. From there, it really comes down to the perimeter shooting of LSU. They’ve shot well in some recent wins, but for the season, only Kyle Hornsby (41.9%) has shot over 34.9% from distance. That won’t get it done tonight, they’ll have to shoot better to beat an aggressive, good-defending Arkansas squad that is playing well.
I’ll take the Razorbacks with the points tonight in the Bayou. The Hogs have covered four of their last five while LSU is just 2-3 ATS, despite finally playing good basketball to remain one of the most disappointing wagers in the nation in 2015-2016.